It is the most fundamental and least heralded change in local government since the Magna Carta! The government wants local communities to decide their own futures. All over the country hundreds of groups are preparing or have prepared their Neighbourhood Plans.
The idea is simple, but the execution is excruciating. Every community is encouraged to prepare a Plan for the Future. In Titchfield, a committee appointed by invitation of the Titchfield Village Trust asked residents what concerned them – traffic and housing topped the list. They also asked what residents would like to do about it. There followed two and a half years of consultation in myriad forms, until a draft Plan had been prepared under the strictest guidelines. A referendum will follow of the whole village, and hey presto, the next 20 years are set in stone.
The Final Plan will have full legal authority. Planning inspectors quail before it.
It hasn’t been easy. Government guidelines and local authority plans change at the drop of a hat. It’s not a job for the faint-hearted. The Forum (approved by Fareham Borough Council in March 2017) of 25 residents have worked assiduously, and the work is in its final stages.
The Neighbourhood Plan for Titchfield is now in the public consultation stage. Residents have until September 10 to put their views. After that, the revised plan goes to an inspector and then comes the referendum. A simple majority will decide the outcome.
Titchfield (and no doubt many other communities) has considerations which are peculiar to itself. We are a medieval village with narrow streets and no front gardens. Busses trundle four times every hour close to ancient houses with medieval foundations. Houses are too expensive for young people to buy. Infilling has taken up almost all the available space for new housing, and the villagers are anxious to preserve the remaining green spaces – the allotments, the bowling club and the village green for example.
Yet there is a requirement by the government for Titchfield to provide around 180 dwellings in the neighbourhood Plan area by 2036. So, what will happen? The Plan will decide.